Eight New Judges For L.A. Superior

Sixteen new judges were appointed this week to California superior courts, eight of them in Los Angeles. The Courthouse News reports that the L.A. Superior Court judges are Richard J. Burdge Jr., Rupert A. Byrdsong, David J. Cowan, Brian S. Currey, Sherilyn P. Garnett, Christopher K. Lui, Enrique Monguia and Gustavo N. Sztraicher. Find out more about the judges and their immediate background here.

Class-Action Suit Seeks Judicial Back Pay

California judges are owed back pay and pension increases because their salaries did not keep pace with state worker compensation as required by law, according to a class action lawsuit filed by a recently retired judge. Robert Mallano, a former presiding judge of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in January, according to the PublicCEO website.
At a meeting of state officials this month where the lawsuit was discussed, Alan Milligan, California’s chief actuary, said there is no formal estimate of the cost if the suit prevails. He said “most or all” of a $97 million liability gain, mainly due to lower salaries, likely would be lost. “How it plays out over time in the contribution rate, that’s a bit more difficult,” Milligan said. “I would have to do a bit of work to calculate that.”

You can read the report here.

Superior Court Judicial Election Deadline Looms, At Least 11 Seats Expected To Be ‘Open’

ANDREW M. STEIN, photo from his firm's website: www.steindefenselawyer.com

ANDREW M. STEIN, photo from his firm’s website: www.steindefenselawyer.com

A veteran criminal defense attorney and civil rights plaintiff-side attorney intends to buck the prosecutors trend in the upcoming Los Angeles Superior Court election, considering one of “at least 11” open seats to avoid running against an incumbent judge, the MetNews is reporting. The news site noted that Andrew M. Stein said he made the decision to run after eliciting a substantial positive response from “friends, relatives, and colleagues,” including a number of judges, whom he queried by email as to whether he should run.
The MetNews added that “… noting that all of the non-incumbents who had filed declarations of intent as ofThursday were deputy district attorneys, Stein said: ‘I love a lot of D.A.s and I have great respect for a lot of D.A.s. But I looked at who was running and they don’t have nearly the experience I have.'”
Stein is a sole practitioner and thus lacks the support that comes from a large firm, and the MetNews said that a successful campaign is likely to cost $350,000 or more.This week is a filing deadline that should make it clear which judicial seats are open. You can read the MetNews report, and bookmark it to follow the judicial race, here.

Coastal Lawsuit Backup Shows 1,837-Case, 20-year Backlog

What happens when the Superior Courts civil dockets get really, really backed up? In effect, the rule of law is suspended; there’s a great example of that with the California Coastal Commission, which can’t actually levy fines but uses lawsuits to enforce regulations. But, in a must-read story, the San Jose Mercury News says the state agency now faces “… 1,837 backlogged cases, some dating back 20 years.”
The newspaper says that the cases “… range from wealthy Malibu residents putting up illegal “no parking” signs to block families from public beaches to a company suspected of illegally mining sand on Monterey County beaches to property owners dumping debris on the shoreline in rural Del Norte County.” And there’s a bill in Sacramento that would allow the commission to levy its own fines, like the Fish & Wildlife or air quality agencies. 
So you can take your pick: The new law would finally give the commission “some teeth” or it could bypass the civil justice system in favor of another fine-producing state board. But as other issues face the slowness of Superior Courts, you can bet this illustrates a trend away from having “your day in court.” Read the story here.

‘Hell Week’ Ends With Hundreds Of Friday Firings

One employee at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse called this “hell week” as hundreds of Los Angeles Superior Court workers braced for layoffs. The L.A. Daily News reported that 539 employees will be impacted, and broke the number down: “The move will result in 177 layoffs, 139 workers who will be demoted with pay cuts, 223 who will be transferred to new work locations and some positions that will remain unfilled, a court official said.”
Mary Hearn, a court spokesperson, told the newspaper that “… there will be delays in getting hearing dates and there will be much longer lines… we have prided ourselves on being the largest neighborhood court ever in a county the size of Los Angeles County, because no matter where you lived you didn’t have to go far if you had court business to attend to. But with the closure of these court houses … we’ve also had to reorganize the work because now we’re providing service in fewer locations than before.”
She also singled out eviction cases and small claims courts as examples of court service cuts. Evictions, called “unlawful detainer cases,” that have been heard in 26 courthouses will be heard in only five. Small claims cases went from 26 sites to two sites.
You can read Kevin Smith’s excellent Daily News story here.  

Balanced budget? ‘Too little, to late’ for L.A. County court


While the Governor and legislators celebrate their $96.4 billion budget deal, workers at L.A. County court are waiting for their pink slips.

According to an L.A. Times story today: “The Los Angeles County Superior Court plans to eliminate more than 500 jobs by the end of the week in a sweeping cost-cutting plan to close a projected $85-million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.” The story also includes a breakdown of the layoffs.

Photo credit: Al Seib/L.A. Times as part of the L.A. Times coverage of the L.A. Court layoff story

Photo credit: Al Seib/L.A. Times as part of the L.A. Times coverage of the L.A. County Court layoff story

As part of his deal with legislators, the governor agreed to restore $63 million to the courts in the budget that will take effect July 1– well short of the $100 million the Legislature wanted.

“We are glad that restoration of trial court funding has begun,” said L.A. County Superior Court presiding judge, David Wesley, in a statement. “But it is a shame that it is too little, too late, to stop the awful reductions in access to justice that state funding cuts have brought.”

Read the full story here.

‘Notices’ Are Next Step Toward Looming ‘Lawmageddon’ Court Crunch

Los Angeles residents who endure the “carmageddon” of an I-405 commute can also brace for a looming “lawmageddon” as Superior courts cuts move from the drawing board to the courthouses; and it’s starting to happen in other areas that were holding out in hopes of more state funding. The notice process is vital, not that the public is ever going to notice, because state code requires “written notice” to both the public and the Judicial Council before closing courtrooms or reducing clerk’s hours.
That starts the shutdown clock ticking, and many notices are like the May 13 statement from the San Mateo Superior Court Officer announcing, among other things, that domestic violence and civil harassment restraining orders would no longer be available in the Northern Branch and people will be “redirected” to Redwood City. Four of six courtrooms in the South San Francisco branch will be closed.